Ally Ali with his Newcastle United Foundation Young Leader Award
Excelsior College’s Ally Ali received a glittering prize from Newcastle United striker Ayoze Perez after being acclaimed a role model for young people.
The modest 19-year-old took his place on stage alongside a host of winners at Newcastle United Foundation’s 125 Years United fundraising dinner.
The black tie event hosted by TV star Gabby Logan in a marquee at Exhibition Park attracted Magpies’ manager Rafa Benitez and a host of current and former players to honour outstanding achievers from foundation programmes.
Newcastle United Foundation Ambassador Perez was joined on stage by Paul Ferris of award sponsors Speedflex to present the Young Leader Award to Ally.
He was described by the foundation as “an exceptional young man whose passion for football has given him the opportunity to become the heart and soul of his community, in spite of an initial language barrier.”
Ally, 19, who is studying BTEC Travel and Tourism at Excelsior College, modestly told few people of his fantastic award, preferring to let others take the limelight.
His achievement in leading foundation football coaching sessions with youngsters and becoming a flag bearer on the St James’ Park pitch before matches, is all the more remarkable as Ally arrived in Newcastle from Somalia just five years ago, speaking little English.
He is a talented player, bagging goals as a striker for North East side Benfield as well as Excelsior College, with hopes of making it as a professional player.
“They told me my award was for the work I was doing as a role model for young kids,” said Ally.
“My mum was really proud and it made me feel good. I’ve supported Newcastle for ages.
“The only people who knew I’d won were close to me, I didn’t want to brag about it.
“My dream is to play for Newcastle. Before I came here I’d heard about St James’s and I’d seen Newcastle on TV.
“I want to be a footballer, I think everybody’s dream is to be a footballer, but I’m also looking at taking electrical engineering at Northumbria University.”
Ally gained a Level One Coaching qualification with the Newcastle United Foundation which is a registered charity supported by Newcastle United Football Club.
It takes the club into the local community, taking the local passion for football and making a difference to help people achieve their goals, on the pitch, in the classroom and in life.
“I’m really thankful for Newcastle United Foundation,” said Ally. “When I joined the foundation, one day I got a free ticket to see Newcastle play and I thought ‘I need to get a job here’.
“We stand on the penalty spot before the game waving the flags. The atmosphere is incredible. The first time I went out onto the pitch in front of the fans I was nervous, I thought the wind was going to take the flag away.
“I stepped on the pitch and everyone was cheering, the noise, everyone is full of life, it’s a good feeling.
“It gives you confidence. When I got the award when I went in front of everyone on stage and did a little interview, I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wasn’t doing flag bearing.
“Standing in front of people gives you the confidence. Ayoze Perez gave me my award. It came as a surprise.
“They had my picture on a big wall in reception and I couldn’t believe it! That was amazing.”